HRB Research

18 Jun 2008

Health Research – Making an Impact, the economic and social benefits of HRB- funded research.The Dental Health Foundation welcomes the Health Research – Making an Impact, the economic and social benefits of HRB-funded research report released in May 2008.The Health Research Board, the Economics Research Group in Brunel University and RAND Europe carried out a ‘payback framework’ to establish how research delivers economic benefits, influences government policy/decision making and makes an impact on people’s lives.Herein is a briefing on the report with particular reference to oral health care. The findings of the case studies examined in this report have impacts in a wide range of health areas, including improvements in dental hygiene.
Research in dentistry by Oral Health Services Research Centre at University College Cork has led to the development of an assay to test whether children are brushing their teeth, which will allow targeted interventions to improve dental hygiene. This assay was demonstrated in the “Winning Smiles” research programme (Dental Health Foundation [DHF] 2006). Although it is not a direct health intervention, tracking whether children are brushing their teeth or not is seen by the DHF as having the potential to reduce dental disease in children so they have fewer oral complications and a better quality of life, together with a lower risk of dental complications later on, particularly in the socio-economic groups in which children are at higher risk. This should reduce the need for later dental treatment; treatments can have drastic complications, with deaths of under 6-year-olds accounting for half of all deaths due to dental anaesthetic complications (Worthington et al., 1998). Related work, which also received HRB funding, looked at the dental health system in Ireland, leading to more effective dental practices and an understanding of where the Department of Health and Children can focus resources, as well as a training course for dental health practitioners in how to run their practices more efficiently both country wide and at the practice level. On the commercial side, this work has led to collaboration with industries such as Wrigley and Unilever on the role of chewing gum in increasing saliva levels which benefits dental health.The assay will reduce costs to the dental health system, targeting the care needed for groups at risk. The Principal Investigator (PR); Dr. Helen Whelton has an interest in developing the assay as a tool for public health that can be used anywhere.This study shows the range of impacts that develop from HRB-funded research and illustrates how these impacts contribute not just to improved health but how they also affect the Irish economy.The full report can be downloaded here.